How we use technology to operate our business

By | November 23, 2009

Richard McKay is a busy man. A director at McKay Flooring, he takes time out from his hectic schedule to write for Small Business Tech. Richard isn’t a commentator who ‘talks’ about technology, he has embraced technology, enhancing a traditional business & achieved impressive results during a recession. Take notes, add our rss feed if you have not already and then go visit his business, browse for further inspiration – plus great products! Oh and Richard has almost 25 thousand followers on twitter, I recommend you follow also.

mckayflooringLast year just before the full onslaught of the recession I decided to up the ante in our marketing efforts and in particular our online marketing. I also identified technologies that I thought may increase efficiency and improve communications within our business. I’m keen to try out new apps, websites that may help us run our business and now have a bundle that I’m happy with and that seem to be working. Our turnover is up 15% despite the recession and profits up considerably too. Some of this can be attributed to the use of these applications.

Social Media – old favourites Twitter and Facebook have played their part. I initially thought of these as broadcasting platforms from where we could promote our services but have since realised the greater value in ‘listening in’ to the conversation. I often liken it to overhearing a conversation in a pub. With the right tools in place this can be a valuable source of leads, industry news, latest technologies etc.

We also use our Twitter and Facebook accounts as outposts for our blog content which auto updates these accounts. In our Twitter toolbox we use CoTweet which allows multiple users to keep an eye on our business account. We will be utilising this much more in 2010. Another good app is Twitterhawk which is a Twitter search programme which enables you to listen out for any keywords. Once you read the context of the keyword you can Tweet from the application.

I love Twitter but often don’t have the time to spend on it (can be a time sink) – however CoTweet collates and emails me updates of any DM’s or mentions of my Twitter usernames.

Two Twitter apps we’re looking at for 2010 are wildfireapp and Objective Marketer – seem to be geared more to enterprise but may hold value for us too.

Probably the most important software we use for the business is Google Apps. We made the switch earlier this year and it’s been seamless. Much prefer Gmail to Outlook and also a big fan of Google Calendar. We decided to go to the cloud as it frees up staff to work at home and on business trips without a VPN. Another vital Google tool is Reader – my personal favourite and increasingly my most important. I use this for the many Google alerts for industry keywords on the web and mentions of our competitors. I’ve also set this up to scour the internet for business leads.

Some other stuff we’ve been using :-

Apture on our wordpress blog to automatically generate content, photos and links for blog posts.

Batchbook – we use this as our CRM system in tandem with Campaign Monitor. Another web app.

Pipejump – this is a sales pipeline application that we use for our commercial contracts. Again it’s a web app.

My Iphone has also changed the way I interact with my working life (essentially now no distinction). My favourite apps are Tweetie for Twitter (superb!), Awesome Note for ideas, Mindmeister for mind-mapping and Toodledo for the various task lists I have.

We considering setting up one or more Posterous sites for the different parts of our business. Posterous allows any updates (these can be emailed to your site) to auto update other social media sites like Twitter and Facebook – very useful.

I’ve also been using Google Wave but not quite got my head around it as yet. Need to dedicate a day of trying out the various bots that embellish it. Strangely enough I’ve already had a good enquiry for reclaimed flooring via Wave!

One area which we haven’t sorted as yet is a company intranet – currently looking at looking at Zoho, CubeTree and PBWorks.